has been made of late as to
Our proposal is rooted in the now developing adjustment of
military capabilities by our NATO allies to a world fundamentally changed by
the ending of the Cold War. Led by the
Simply put, we propose that the Canadian Forces establish a Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), deployable primarily by sea in purpose-built amphibious ships that will sail within days of the order, and be ready for operations upon arrival in-theatre. For reasons that will become apparent in the discussion below, we feel that the primary fighting unit most likely to gain military success and diplomatic influence is what we like to term the “Basic Old-Fashioned Infantry Brigade” (BOFIB); we have affectionately styled the amphibious ships “Sea Horses”.
A fuller discussion of this proposal, entitled “An Appreciation Meeting the Needs of Joint Overseas Deployments of Canadian Forces in Support of Our Foreign Policies,” has been prepared in the traditional format of a Military Appreciation and readers interested in obtaining a copy may find it and related material posted to the web-site of the Vancouver Island branch of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI): http://www.rusiviccda.org. Our purpose in this present article is to set the context for that Appreciation, and to outline some of its broad findings for the general reader.
Without getting into detailed and potentially distracting arguments as to specific military hardware, some existing and developing platforms do illustrate the possibilities. During the initial rebuilding period, as the CF adapts to the new concept of operations and becomes familiar with the new equipment, the force would be developed in battalion strength (800-1000 troops), embarked in a ship somewhat like the 25,000 ton San Antonio-class LPD (Landing Platform Dock) (unofficial contacts lead us to believe that one could be leased-to-purchase fairly easily from US sources).
it should be constituted around a larger vessel such as the American Wasp-class
LHD (a 40,500-ton general purpose amphibious ship) capable of embarking nearly
2000 troops, their armoured vehicles, and supporting transport and attack
helicopters and aircraft. Other options
concept is hardly new. The Royal
Canadian Military Institute put it forward in A Wake up Call for Canada: the
Need for a New Military in the spring of 2001, as did Professor David
Bercuson of the
All that was before September 11, 2001. Even if the world did not change on that date, the Al-Qaeda attacks certainly crystallized many trends that had been developing since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In his year-end report for 2002, Chief of the Defence Staff General Ray Henault declared that, despite the needs of homeland security, expeditionary operations were to be the continuing rationale for the Canadian Forces. Then Defence Minister David Pratt said (with no dissent from the Opposition) that in the next decade the CF must expect to engage in the sort of operations it has experienced over the past decade.
What then of those operations? It is our feeling that, for all the self-satisfaction they have brought to Canadians, they have garnered little appreciation from our allies and coalition partners, let alone have they had a truly useful impact upon the situations they were sent to address. Canadian politicians have been able to gaze pleasingly at a world map studded with little maple leaf flags indicating current missions, but the truth is that the majority of those have been small groups of observers or supporting communications and logistics staffs subsumed within larger coalition forces.
general, when Canadians think of things military, the tendency is to do so in
terms of “Army” formations, but the Navy and Air Force experience has not been
much different, with their respective frigate deployments to USN carrier battle
groups and humanitarian airlift missions by Hercules transports. For those not engaged in classic
“peacekeeping”, the trend also has been for company-sized groups (200 combat
soldiers) to be attached to larger allied formations. The obvious exceptions are
several military trends have become apparent over the past decade. For one, the growing number of missions
pointed not to an era of post-cold war stability, but rather the need for
stabilization operations by primarily western forces in an increasingly
anarchic world. Another important development
that did carry over from the previous era is general recognition of the need
for all other coalition partners to be interoperable with
specific lesson for
Sea-basing gives enormous flexibility to politicians as well as military commanders. Politicians will appreciate the “wiggle room” that comes with the ability to dispatch a force fairly quickly to demonstrate intent, while the actual mission can be determined as the force is en route and the situation evolves. For the military commander, the “hotel” or base facilities are self-contained, as is the logistics supply train, and the capacity to have the joint force headquarters embarked means no need to employ forces protecting a base: by significantly reducing the “tooth-to-tail” ratio, the majority of a force can be dedicated to the military mission ashore. Finally, by definition, the offshore amphibious ships provide a ready exit strategy, not reliant upon the limited and unreliable capacity of chartered airlift.
examples pertain in which sea-basing was a potentially fruitful option, but the
most recent is the best. During the
hasten to note that none of this is meant to replace the existing Canadian
Forces, but rather to add to them. We
subscribe to the near-universal consensus that the CF must increase by about a
third, to at least 80,000 personnel.
There will always be a place for the “traditional” forces – an Air Force
for the air defence of
the same time, while the BOFIB – Sea Horse combination demands decidedly new
capabilities, those are nothing terribly radical. Our Navy has operated large ships in the
past, our earlier aircraft carriers occasionally having been employed on just
these sorts of operations (author Ralph Fisher had first-hand experience
onboard Magnificent to
It is appropriate at this juncture to note that no one should anticipate Canadian Forces to engage in opposed landings, but the troops should still be ready for action on arrival, not subject to a long period of getting established and able when needed to defend evacuations of troops and civilians. Of all the services, it is perhaps the Air Force that will require the greatest change to its concept of operations. It has been many decades since it has engaged in the sort of ground attack operations approximating direct fire support. Attack helicopters will be a new departure, but the capabilities inherent in a weapon system such as the Apache are much needed, whether from a sea-based platform or a conventional land base.
The price tag for these capabilities would seem steep, except that so much of the present CF requires re-building in any event, and similar funds would have to be expended. Those can be further rationalized if the initial cost of large items such as the ships is amortized over their expected lifetime of as much as five decades.
Lew MacKenzie knows from experience that coalition military commanders would be ecstatic to have a self-contained Canadian rapid reaction force of brigade size at their disposal. To sum up, it would consist of three battle groups of 800 to 1,000 men each. Two would be transported by sea; the third will be light and deliverable by air landing with a company that could alternatively be delivered by parachute. The initial priority in the re-building phase will be one battle group by sea, given its high value in support of our foreign policy.
BOFIB – Sea Horse Rapid Reaction Force will restore the capability our Forces
require to resume punching above their weight in serving the cause of peace,
freedom and humanity around the globe.
That in turn will give